Boney Breast

by Tim
(Madisonville, TN, USA)

Question:

Boney Breast: I am concerned about my 26 chickens, some of them have really boney breasts.

I am new to raising and do not know if I should be concerned. They are eating about 50 lbs. of starter/grower feed every 1 1/2 weeks and have moved them to a 10x10x8 chicken coop.

I have noticed a few droppings are runny and very dark. They do huddle together during the day and use the roost at night. I don't think they are old enough to make a chicken yard because of hawks in our area. Any help and suggestions would be appreciated.

Answer:
Boney breasts indicate that these chickens are seriously underweight. A healthy chicken of any age should have nice plump breast muscles that completely hide this bone.

You haven't said how old these are but I suspect they are overcrowded. 10 square feet is a good amount of area for one adult chicken; 10 sq ft of yard plus 4 sq ft in the coop per adult.

Of course, many people raise chickens in much less area per chicken. When I keep any kind of animal, I try to allow it as much room as possible, rather than the minimum.

If you fear for the safety of your chickens in an open pen, you might want to cover the top with wire or shade type mesh.

Chickens are at risk of immune system failure and other problems when over crowded. This is why the commercial poultry industry often feeds antibiotics daily.

Chickens of any age are competitive for feed and space. The most dominant may keep the weakest away from food and water.

This instinct is meant to drive the less dominant and weaker chickens away from the strongest of the flock, but in a closed environment this behavior often leads to malnutrition, illness and death.

An immediate solution may be to add feeding stations, like one in each corner, or more than you already have set up. The dominant chickens would wear themselves out trying to protect and defend all feeding stations.

This may help put weight on the thin while you work on expanding their area. There may be a parasite problem, internal or external. This can also lead to chickens having trouble keeping or putting weight on.

I suspect that these growing chickens may not have access to as much feed as they can eat 24/7.

Whenever food runs out the most dominant will begin to guard the food source. Growing chicks need warmth and as much good feed and water as they want.

If they are huddling together during the day, they are likely cold. The dark droppings can be an indication of intestinal irritations causing bleeding which can be caused by bacteria or other living organisms in the digestive tract.

Getting a sample of those droppings to the vet for testing will tell you what the problem is and how to treat it. In an over crowded situation parasites and intestinal disorders can spread quickly.

Keeping the area as clean as possible. Removing any from the flock that show signs of disease or weakness is always a good idea. Since they are underweight, I would suspect that they are lacking adequate vitamins and minerals.

It would be good to supplement them right away to help bring them to the best health possible. Supplementing the whole flock may help them feel better and less likely to guard feed.

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by: Tim

The chickens are about 11 weeks old and I give them all the food they can twice a day and there is always food still in the feeders and clean water available.

The food is cleaned out and water dumped out and given fresh water every feeding. I started them on a parasite medicine (culmet, or something like that)in their water a couple days ago. @ table spoons per gallon. They are drinking about 1 1/2 gallons of water a day and are eating 50 lbs. every week and a half.

I have 25 black sexlinks and one that has feathers to her feet. They have been in their coop for about 2 weeks now and realize with your last post that they need more room.

I have 100 feet chicken wire to build a run and I keep my dog also on a run close to the chicken coop to try to keep predators away. Anymore suggestions is greatly appreciated.

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Boney Breast
by: Sharon

If Sulmet is what you are using, that can only treat bacterial type organisms in the digestive tract not worms, not really a parasite treatment.

When ever you use an antibiotic it's good to follow up with a "Probiotic" to restore any good digestive bacteria that has been killed off during treatment.

Sounds like there is enough food and drink, so that would mean the most dominant chicks are guarding the feed, keeping the weaker ones from eating, possibly due to over crowding.

I would still suggest additional feeding stations to help the weaker, thinner, less dominant ones, to get what they need or separate them so they can begin to thrive.

Weeks of falling behind in growth and development now will likely cause them problems later.

One of the best ways to diagnose problems in your flock is to spend some time quietly observing them.

There is no point intervening with any bullying you might see (unless one's life is threatened), other than to make a plan that will better protect the ones being picked on.

Sometimes removing the dominant ones is an easier solution. You will learn a lot about chicken behavior by studying your flock and be able to solve problems more quickly, if you watch them.

Chickens are not mean creatures, there is always a good reason for their behavior. When we put animals in an unnatural setting, it's always our responsibility (or fault), when things aren't working out like we planned.

Observing them is a great way to see if they are happy or not.

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by: tim

you mentioned probiotic, what do you recomend? I took the chance and fenced in a chicken yard roughly a 32x20. They seem to be happy.

I have been paying attention to their poop and it doesn't seem bloody but it is thickening. I don't see any worms or anything in it. I don't know if the sulmet is causing this and they have been taking it for 4 days now.

I think their are about 4 chickens that have this. (Kind of hard to tell). Can you tell me when I take them off the Sulmet if I need to ween them off of it? Also if you can tell me if they had worms; would I be able to see them.

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Boney Breast
by: Sharon

I would recommend just following the directions on the Sulmet container. There are usually minimum and maximum dosing instructions. Thick or formed poo is good.

It shows good digestive balance and a good balance of moisture and feed. Once off the Sulmet, continue to observe droppings. If you notice any diarrhea, the Probiotic may help.

Any brand the feed store carries is probably good, or you could give them a mixture of soaked feed with live culture yogurt.

Most often it's the eggs of worms that are passed in droppings. It takes a lot watching poo or a serious infestation to spot worms in droppings.

I like to avoid giving drugs or chemicals to my chickens, since I really like eating their eggs. (I believe Selmet directions include not using the eggs for a certain time, after treatment.) For several years I've been using Diamomaceous Earth.

Internally, externally and in the environment it can help control parasites and is all natural. I've ordered Food Grade DE from BulkFoods.com.

It also provides trace minerals and can help keep good digestive balance (correcting diarrhea or constipation), along with good balanced nutrition.

Glad to hear the chickies have a bigger pen! Happy chickens are my favorite kind!

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Boney Breast
by: Sharon

Hope all is going well with your chickens. It's been a while since we heard back. The most natural environment you can offer your chickens, the healthier they will be. Hopefully they are off all medications and doing well!

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Thank you
by: Tim

Thanks for checking back with me. Yes the Black Sexlinks are doing fine. We lost 2 due to some intestinal thing.

I gave them sulmit for three days and everything cleared up. Now they are 6 1/2 months old. They are laying like crazy; about 10 to 13 a day.

The roosters that we introduced to them at about 5 months were a little younger and one of them has learned how to crow today.

My daughter was excited and found out the quick way what mating was.

She wants to try incubating some eggs next year but that will be another thread for help. I can see the money making wheels running in her head. Thank you so much for your help!

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Boney Breast
by: Anonymous

Glad to hear things are going well and your daughter is finding the chickens so interesting. We hope you'll take advantage of all the good information in our library.

Just click on the Chicken Sitemap to find an index of articles and previous questions and answers. We have over 1000 Q/As for the most common questions people have and try to include articles for the most asked for information.

It's our desire to provide answers that will help folks understand the cause of certain problems and behaviors and help prevent unwanted situations in the future.

Fall and winter are a great time to plan for Breeding Chickens in the spring. Good nutrition, exercise and set-up are important. Creating a place for an electric brooder or separate pen for broody hens to incubate eggs undisturbed and raise chicks is a helpful tool for Raising Chickens.

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